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Monday, September 12, 2005

Jay >> WotR final thoughts

A few things I have seen posted from time to time about War of the Ring seem puzzlesome to me.

First are comments which seem to mirror Bubslug's observations that predisposition to the theme seems to create a willingness to overlook issues with the game -- be they mechancical (clunky mechanics) or physical (clunky components/font size). I agree that a strong theme can have a favorable impact and allow players to look past blemishes to enjoy the "spirit" of a game.

In a way, this is why some games still hold a strong nostalgia rating for me, even though I know in my heart of hearts that the game is not nearly as good as I remember from my youth (Talisman, Castle of Magic). But since I have such fond memories of these games, and I desperately want to still enjoy them and keep those memories evergreen, it's incredibly difficult for me to offer unbiased feedback, let alone concede some of the problems that exist with the games -- after all, they're my babies... I don't want anyone saying anything bad about them! While it's not wholly apples to apples, I think a bit of this nostalgia factor applies, since so many people have a strong attachment to the Tolkein fiction.

On the other hand, I'm a bit surprised by comments which seem to pass off some of these blemishes and (what I perceive to be) flaws as actual innovations and brilliant design achievements. It's one thing to have your perception altered by an eagerness to embrace a theme (or in my case, clinging to nostalgia) but I think there comes a point where this can lead the player to lose objectivity, and thereby make it difficult for new or prospective players to get a real sense of what the gameplay experience offers -- or what quirks/oddities the game may include which could affect someone's purchase decision.

Not to pick on Andy, but his comment in a previous post is a good example of the sort of comment that catches me off guard:

The design brilliance lies in the indirectness of Sauron's ability to set about the Fellowship

To the casual reader, this sounds like a clever innovation. But rather than design brilliance, my personal experience was otherwise. After playing the game, my admittendly biased translation of this comment would be:

The design problem is the inability of the Sauron player to directly set about the Fellowship

A number of players see this element as a challenge to overcome or a nuance to explore strategically, while other players see this as a limitation preventing them from pursuing gameplay strategies that seem sensible. A truly objective evaluation might end up being something more like this:

The design structure limits the ability of the Sauron player to direclty affect the Fellowship

... My point? I guess the bottom line is that since War of the Ring generates such fanfare and has attracted a healthy, vocal fanbase, I think it's becoming more and more difficult to find objective and balanced content about the game, which I believe is just as important to the potential gamer.